Hard on the heels of the Forensic Audit Reports on the Central Bank (CB) Bond Scams covering two time slots -- one during the tenure of then CB governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, from July 1, 2006 to January 9, 2015 under the Mahinda Rajapaksa government and the other during the tenure of then CB governor Arjuna Mahendran, from January 26, 2015 to June 30, 2016 under the Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe government -- comes the controversial Airbus Deal with one no less sordid or repugnant than the other. More so because these games have been played either by misusing the hard-earned savings in the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) or the monies paid into government coffers by people from all walks of life in the form of direct or indirect tax.
Whether this skulduggery will ever end is anybody’s guess considering the character of some of those who enter Parliament through the two main political parties and their sycophants, who get appointed to high government posts.
According to the Forensic Audit Reports, the Government had lost an estimated Rs.10.47 billion through 4,504 direct placements made by the CB’s Public Debt Department (PDD) between January 1, 2005 and February 28, 2015.
The five Forensic Reports are as follows: The Issuance of Treasury Bonds during the period January 1, 2002 to February 28, 2015 by the PDD; the Primary and secondary market transactions of the EPF involving Treasury Bonds issued/transacted from January 1, 2002 to February 28, 2015; the EPF Transactions from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2017 in listed and unlisted equities; the Issuance of Treasury Bonds and remittance of funds received to the General Treasury from February 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 by the PDD and the Conduct of the supervisory and regulatory role by the Superintendent of Public Debt/Director and the Supervision of Non-Bank Financial Institutions pertaining to selected Primary Dealers from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2017.
Against this backdrop, the government must be having its hands full with the additional disclosure that the sale of Airbuses to Sri Lanka’s national carrier in 2013 had been ridden with allegations of bribery and corruption involving SriLankan airline’s then Chief Executive Officer Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Neomali Wijenayake.
A February 3 Reuters report quoted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office as having ordered “a comprehensive investigation into reports of allegations over financial irregularities” with regard to bribery by the European Airbus manufacturer in connection with the sale of aircraft to SriLankan airlines, after Airbus agreed to settle a corruption probe with regulators.
Detailed findings from Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said Airbus had hired the wife of a SriLankan airlines executive as its intermediary and misled UK export credit agency UKEF over her name and gender, while paying US$2 million to her company, Reuters said.
Meanwhile, Kapila Chandrasena, and his wife Priyanka were arrested last Tuesday on charges of money laundering and later remanded till February 19 after being produced in Court.
The SFO is reported to have said the alleged corruption deal between Airbus and SriLankan airlines had taken place between July 2011 and June 2015 while in a statement SriLankan said its chairman and the board of directors had instructed the management to cooperate fully with any government agency regarding any investigation or prosecution and “preserve and study all available internal documentation with a view to taking all possible corrective future action”.
The announcement of the Airbus settlement came in the wake of a near four-year investigation covering sales to more than a dozen overseas markets. Those seeking more details on this despicable deal could read the investigative report carried in The Sunday Times on February 9, 2020.
Nevertheless, we hope the investigation ordered by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa into the shady Airbus deal will reveal the wheels within wheels of such massive acts of fraud and corruption and whether Kapila Chandrasena and his wife were acting on their own or as proxies for others, more powerful than them, pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Incidentally, the report issued by the board of inquiry headed by anti-corruption activist and senior lawyer J.C. Weliamuna could be used as the launching pad for the latest investigation even though the report might be a cause of embarrassment to the present government.
This unfortunately, is another instance of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans being fleeced by a handful of shameless individuals, who will go to any extent to feed their lust for filthy lucre.